July 28, 2015

Sen. Brown Opening Statement at Banking Committee's Hearing on Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – released the following opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s hearing titled, “Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban.”

Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow. 

Senator Sherrod Brown - Opening Statement
Hearing: “Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban”

July 28, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding today’s hearing, and to Senator Murkowski and our other panelists for being here today.

We’re before the Banking Committee today to discuss oil exports because of our jurisdictional responsibility for export controls and export licensing.

Oil exports is an important issue for consumers, manufacturers, and workers in the oil, refining, petrochemical, and transportation sectors. 

It’s important for national security; for rail safety; for our environment and for long-term climate policy.

Changes to this policy would affect different areas of the country very differently – more production in some areas and potentially negative impacts on refineries and their workers in others. 

I’ve spoken with Senators Tester and Heitkamp about the tremendous impact fracking has had on their part of the country, as it is beginning to have in parts of Ohio as well.  Other members come to this issue with different perspectives.

Many don’t think of Ohio as an energy producing state, but by the 1880s, Cleveland’s own John D. Rockefeller had developed significant fields in Lima and Findlay, and started Standard Oil.

What this has meant for Ohio manufacturers and consumers has been significantly lower natural gas prices—increasing competitiveness and allowing families to stretch their budgets further.

Yet, in the opinion of many on the panel today, the crude oil export ban is a relic of price control policies of the past, which does not take into account the recent surge of domestic production that has led to a significant reduction in imported oil. 

This boom has, without a doubt, increased our nation’s energy security—a goal long sought by Congress and previous Administrations.

It’s my understanding that the recent production increase has resulted in billions of dollars in investments at our nation’s refineries, and in the reduction of imports.

Lower crude prices have benefitted domestic refineries, and as a result consumers are also paying less at the gas pump.

I want to hear from our witnesses about the effect ending the export ban would have on prices, domestic drilling, greenhouse gas emissions, and whether it would increase pressure to drill on federal lands or other environmentally sensitive areas of the country. 

While this is often described as an all-or nothing proposition, ending the ban or maintaining the status quo, I’d also like to hear if there are alternatives.

For example, should the administration use its existing legal authorities to expand licensing? Doing so might give us more control over the process in the medium to long-term, when some of the major shale plays currently in production tap out.  This is similar to our current approach for certain types of condensates.

Finally, over the past month, I’ve had occasion to visit several communities in Ohio that have expressed concerns about the increasing number of crude-by-rail trains moving through their communities en route to refineries on the east coast.

In response, I introduced legislation last week to get the most dangerous cars off the tracks, get safer cars on the tracks, and provide funding to communities at risk for these disasters.

I think that’s part of the answer.  But these firefighters, elected officials, and emergency management professionals are very concerned about the high volumes of crude oil moving through their communities even with additional precautions. 

I look forward to working with my colleagues, and hearing from our panel about all these issues.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.